Crocs, Rocks and Tropical Storms

first_imgMany of us have experienced adventure on our way to a Touch Football tournament…a flat tyre while taking that “shortcut” your mates suggested was a good idea…the after-effects of a dodgy chiko roll at a late night roadhouse…or having your luggage end up on the other side of the country. Next time you face a hurdle or two in getting to your next game, spare a thought for the Ramingining team that competed at the recent Northern Territory Touch Football Titles. For those that don’t know, Ramingining is about 530km east of Darwin in East Arnhem Land, and if you want to drive to the NT capital, the best you’ll do is seven or eight hours dodging potholes all the way to the city. Two teachers from the Ramingining School – Cam Adams and Joseph Smith – came up with the idea to get a team together from the Indigenous community, and prepare them to compete at the NT Titles.  The fact none of the boys had ever played the game before (except Cam, a former Barbarians, WA and Cook Islands representative player) did nothing to curb the enthusiasm that Cam and Joseph had for the task of competing. The plan eventually went before another teacher – Geoff Guymer – who helped draft a letter to the East Arnhem Shire and the office of Malindirri McCarthy (MP for Arnhem Land).  The Shire granted support, while Ms McCarthy contributed some of her own money to help the team.  The NT Touch budget also assisted, and from there, Cam, Joseph and the team never looked back. Ever had trouble getting players committed to training?  It wasn’t a problem with these boys, so long as they had a way to get there for the daily 4pm sessions. “Joseph and I literally had to drive around the community in our cars to pick up the boys for training”, said Cam. “A lot of people get used to having an oval to train on – you know – a flat surface, good grass cover.  For us, it was just an open space – the surface wasn’t level, and we had anthills, potholes and tree stumps to watch out for.” Training didn’t always go well, as Smith explains. “We had a public holiday the other week (in late April).  The shop was shut, so it meant most of the boys hadn’t had their usual sugar fix, so they were flat and didn’t have much energy for training.” No doubt plenty of coaches would love the commitment to attend training that this team shared.  Tribal law isn’t what it once was, but missing “ceremony”, which often meant a funeral with associated dance, is still very much an issue to the elders. “We were really impressed with the commitment of the boys to their training.  Missing ceremony in the old days meant a spear through the leg!  These days, the elders yell at them, but it’s punishment they were prepared to wear for the good of the team”, said Smith. Now think back to that “horror” trip you might have done to get to a Touch Football event, and spare a thought for the Ramingining boys, who at the start, had a pretty straight forward plan to take the bumpy road into Darwin for their first taste of Touch Football competition. “We got word about a week out that the road from Ramingining to Maningrida was impassable because of flooding, so it meant a change of plans – drive 40km, then a boat across a river – followed by a further 60km by road into Maningrida”, said Adams. “Joseph got his boat sorted – a small tinnie with a 30 horsepower motor on the back.  We loaded up all the boys & luggage, and had to move fast with a tropical storm coming in.  We hit a mud flat and had to lift the engine with everyone out to drag the boat to deeper water.  Getting wet wasn’t the problem – but we all know there are plenty of big crocs in the river!” The team eventually got across the river…and without anyone getting taken by one of the local crocodiles.  But with no car meeting them on the other side, and Smith having little luck using the local language to get help, it was looking like they might not get to their flight. Help eventually arrived, and for most of the boys, it was a nervous first flying experience.  They didn’t know much about taking to the air, but knew a plane had crashed in the Territory only a few weeks earlier. The Ramingining Men’s Open enjoyed fine dining at 30,000 feet – snacking on sandwiches and dipping biscuits in orange juice!!  And they touched down in Darwin at 6:10m….plenty of time for their first match at 6:50pm. Heading into that first game, only Cam Adams had been on a touch field before.  By the end of the weekend, the Ramingining boys had had a great time – the highlight a seven-all draw with Alice Springs. “The boys thought that was the grand final….in fact I think they still think they’ve won”, said Adams. Cam Adams was not only impressed with the commitment of the team to the game, but also how quickly the community had come to accept him since his move from Western Australia last year. “It usually takes a long time to get the trust of the community.  The fact as a new teacher I was trusted to get the boys onto this trip meant a lot to me”, said Adams. Kings of the NT Titles…Kings of Ramingining….at least for one weekend!  And they’re already planning to do it all again next year….with the help of a bigger boat.Story taken from the Northern Territory Website.last_img read more

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